Best Efforts

There was much less to do when we woke up today.  All we had to do is walk to our gate for our 10:20 flight.  We were already in the airport, all we needed to do is walk down the hallway, from Z25 to Z66.  On the way, we stopped in the lounge again.  Or rather, we tried.  The person who was at the desk wanted to see the expiration date on my Star Alliance Gold membership.  I was flustered, because I was showing her what was on the United App, and I didn’t know what else I could show her.  I tried to use logic, telling her “if it was expired, why would it show up on my phone in the app?”  She wasn’t having it, so I got pissed and we left.  Outside, I futzed around with the United App, updating the version.  For whatever reason, on the updated version the same membership card showed up, but this time with an expiration date on it.  We went back in, and rather than gloat in front of the same person, we got a different person who was very kind and helpful and didn’t even bother asking.

It was very odd being back in this lounge, four months later.  On 8 January, the lounge was 99% empty, and everything on the television was about the insurrection at the US Capitol.  Today, the lounge was 90% empty, and showed signs of getting back to normal, even if we still couldn’t eat or drink in the lounge.  We sat in the same place I’d sat in January, but this time Crystal was here, and I was headed in the opposite direction.  Truthfully, I didn’t want to be heading home at all, let alone so soon.  But, despite my best efforts – and I truly mean my best efforts – the decision wasn’t mine to make. 

In legal writing, positive facts are described with active voice (“The Court sanctioned Plaintiff for destroying documents”) whereas negative facts are described with passive voice (“Documents were destroyed”).  I say that because I don’t know who to actively blame for us having to leave.  I know it had something to do with the extranjero office.  I know it was exacerbated by COVID.  I know it was exacerbated even more by Brexit.  I have no clue whether what Carlos filed was accurate and complete, and whether that had anything to do with it.  In the end it was decided we couldn’t stay

I have a lot of OCD, I’m very Type A, and I like being in control of things.  In this situation, however, I had zero control, and zero I could realistically do that I hadn’t already done.  On the one hand, that’s extremely frustrating, because I would’ve done anything and everything, if there was something I could do.  On the other hand, it makes it a little easier, because I wasn’t in control and I knew the situation had nothing to do with me personally, or my actions.  While I had zero desire to return to the US, and its numerous failures and problems, I knew Crystal would be happy, our friends and family would be happy, and the dogs would be safe.  So I tried to take solace in that, and just keep it moving.

Speaking of keeping it moving, we couldn’t eat or drink in the lounge, so we walked down near the gate, found an area with no one around, and ate there.  Then we walked over to the gate and looked out the window, waiting for the dogs to arrive.  They showed up around an hour later, around 09:40.  There was one other dog as well, presumably a large dog because it was in a larger crate.  Since I had my cameras in my backpack, I took them out and used the telephoto lens to attempt to get some photos of the dogs themselves, to see how they looked.  Aside from making out Avon’s tongue in one photo, I couldn’t make heads or tails of them.  They ended up roping the three dog crates together, putting Lola’s crate on top of the other dog’s crate, and Avon right next to the other dog.  I worried about this a little, as they’d be right next to each other for 10 hours.  I just hoped the other dog was chill, and Avon would be chill as well.

The plane was a little late to board, for reasons unknown to me.  But a lot of that time was made up during boarding, as the plane was really empty, maybe one-third full.  Everyone was waiting for the word from the flight attendants so that we could spread out to our own rows.  I overheard several people saying basically the same thing, something along the lines of “they’re trying to keep us safe from COVID, but put us all in the same couple of rows, why?”  We got the word before takeoff, and I moved a row in front of Crystal.  I don’t remember much from the plane flight, other than when I asked for a refill of my wine glass, the flight attendant said they weren’t supposed to do that anymore (COVID maybe?), but that she’d hook me up anyway.

We landed at LAX around 13:00.  Since the plane was empty, it was quick to deplane and head to customs and immigration.  With our Global Entry, immigration was quick too.  For once, we had a “yes” to one of the questions, specifically whether we had any animals.  We got our Global Entry printout, then went into baggage claim.  The bags came out fairly quickly, and then we found the area where the dogs were supposed to come out, in the corner of the baggage claim area, I think the northwest corner.  After what happened in Tenerife, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But after waiting for not even one minute, the dogs came out in their crates and were just put against the wall.  No security, no paperwork, no nothing.  Anyone could have just taken the dogs if we weren’t there ourselves.  But we were there, snatched them, and didn’t look back.  Crystal took the luggage cart with all the luggage, and I took the luggage carts with each of the dogs.  It wasn’t easy to navigate two carts, but by having them directly side by side helped.  At customs, they were waiting on someone to ask us about the “yes” on our claim forms, and we were waiting for a bit, but eventually someone asked what the “yes” was, and I mentioned we had flown with our pets.  He just said “go ahead”, and we didn’t wait for him to change his mind. 

We were then outside, in Los Angeles spring weather, about 40 minutes after landing.  The next step was to get the rental car.  Since LAX is a mess, we went through the process of arranging everything before I went to get the car, so that we could load the car much faster than we’d loaded Charlotte’s van yesterday.  So we put the dogs in a single crate (again), and took the other crate apart (again).  I emailed my parents to let them know what had transpired in the last couple days.  They knew we were trying to come back, but had no idea we’d booked tickets, let alone left home, let alone returned to the US.  I didn’t want to say anything and get their hopes up until we’d returned.  Well, now we had.

I took the shuttle over to the rental car spot, and it took all of about 5 minutes before I was sick and tired of everyone.  People were loud, people were rude, people were getting on rental car buses when they wanted a hotel bus, people were getting on the wrong rental car bus, people were talking loudly on their cell phones, using their speakerphones, and I hated all of it.  I had missed absolutely zero of this.  When I finally got to the rental car spot, there wasn’t much of a line, and they had the vehicle we’d booked, a large Minivan, a Chrysler Pacifica I think.  I hadn’t driven a car in four months, and I’d never driven a Minivan in my life.  So I tried out a bunch of stuff in the parking lot before leaving, and made sure all the mirrors were in the right spot, that I knew which levers and buttons did what, and so on.  It seemed more than large enough for everything we had, and then it occurred to me how odd it is that a single Minivan could hold all the things that had gotten us by living for four months in a foreign country.

When I got to the Tom Bradley Terminal, it was nuts as I knew it would be, but there was a spot just past where I’d left Crystal and the dogs, in front of a cop car.  I really hoped the cop wasn’t in his or her car, as I didn’t want to deal with any of that, especially today.  I pulled up the curb and opened the rear hatch, then hopped out and we picked up the dogs’ crate and put it in first, followed by the bags in order of largest to smallest.  It worked even better than planned, and we were in the van with the doors closed in less than a minute.  No cop gave us any grief; Crystal said she thought the cop had something to do with a celebrity either coming into the airport or leaving the airport – how on brand.

After four months of no driving, I got an immediate “workout” on Century Boulevard and then the 405 and 5 freeways, during rush hour no less.  It was like starting a video game on expert level.  The minivan drove pretty well, and there were no close calls on the road, but once we got past the 78 in Oceanside and hit traffic again, this time San Diego traffic, I was ready to be done.  But traffic persisted and persisted, almost all the way to downtown.  We got to Heidi’s place right around 17:00, and offloaded everything into her condo in short order.  She wasn’t there, as she was at Tom’s place. 

It was very odd when I walked in, as our couch and recliner were in the living room; I had forgotten that the renters didn’t want them, so Crystal asked Heidi if we could store them at her place.  So there was a little slice of our old home at Heidi’s place.  The dogs recognized some of the stuff, recognized some of the smells, and made themselves at home in short order, lying near the west window that was illuminated by the late afternoon sun.  I got all the crap out of the minivan, and Crystal grabbed the keys to our Volkswagen, which was in the parking garage where Crystal had left it in January.  It started, and we drove separately over to the rental car return at the San Diego airport, just a couple miles away, with a pit stop to fill up the minivan’s gas tank.  Crystal drove us back to Heidi’s place, and I assume we got something to eat or drink, but I don’t remember, as it wasn’t important.  The important thing was that I’d gotten Crystal and the pups home in one piece.  I’d gotten myself home in many.

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